School of Architecture and Planning

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The Idea of Heritage Development

Executive summary

Buffalo's Opportunity

The Economics of Heritage Development

Urban Design and Heritage Development

Exhibit of Historic Views

Heritage Development
- a Case Study

Group Discussion Sessions

A Summary of the Conversation

Content Analysis
(coming soon)


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Heritage development is also about making decisions and doing hard work — making decisions and doing hard work. It involves a geographic region — a place — as well as a framework for development — a process. The place has a history and a geography, a story of broad interest to tell, and private and public support for investment in the community. The process involves building partnerships that will work to educate residents and visitors about the region, to protect the best of its natural, cultural and historic resources, and enhance the region’s economy through business investment, job expansion... and tourism.

There! That’s the first time we’ve mentioned tourism. Tourism is not the goal. Tourism is one of the benefits that come from having a good place. As a colleague of many of ours in South Carolina would say, “Heritage development is usin’ what ya got to make money.” Now, that sort of puts it in the same framework as the world’s oldest profession. But that’s not too far off the mark either. (laughter)

Nationally, we now have 18 Congressionally-designated National Heritage Areas and they are truly doing some remarkable work. That includes Jerry Adelmann and Ana Koval from the Illinois & Michigan Canal with us here today. You’ll hear them this afternoon. There are also, I think, at least 150 other places that are involved in this heritage development process throughout the nation.

This is my first time in Buffalo since, I think, 1987. And even though I’ve been here for about 18 hours now, I’ve got to tell you: Buffalo was not on my list of those places that are involved in this process. But I do think that what you’re doing here, you’re creating some lessons for the other 150 places out there. This is remarkable what you are doing.

But I want to tell you about a few other places. Does anybody here know a lot about Augusta, Georgia or maybe is from Augusta, Georgia? Okay. I can get away with a few lies here. Oh, there’s one. Alright. (laughter). Twenty years ago, Augusta decided to combine a lot of their civic opportunities into a single program. What they thought they were doing was strengthening historic preservation, building a recreational network for the citizens, boosting employment, doing something about public education, and doing something about downtown revitalization.

Now notice, tourism, once again, has not been mentioned. It wasn’t called that back then, but this is truly heritage development. Now I want to give you a thumbnail sketch of what they have done over the past 20 years. This is sort of like the architect’s conceptual drawing which explains, once the building is completed, how clear and crystalline and concise that concept was. I was trained as an architect. Let me tell you, that’s not what happens. The conceptual diagram is only done after the building is completed and generally about five minutes before the ribbons are cut. The architect doesn’t tell you about the fits and the starts and the arguments and perhaps the lawsuits that happened along the way. Nevertheless, here is Augusta.

In the mid-1800’s, Augusta built an eight mile canal that sort of paralleled the Savannah River. While Augusta’s canal was generating waterpower, the river was giving them access to Savannah and the entire East coast. Cotton was brought to the mills along the river and turned into textiles. And this arrangement was so successful that Augusta sort of stole all of America’s textile industries from Lowell, Massachusetts. A few of these old mills are still downtown and they’re still producing cloth.

Long Gate Spillway on the Augusta Canal - Courtesy of The Augusta Canal National Heritage AreaNow 20 years later, the architect’s conceptual drawing looks something like this. They used the story of the canal and the river and both waterways’ history in the region as the theme for community revitalization. That is heritage development. Education campaigns raised awareness and then civic passions and dozens of public meetings created a consensus plan for the two waterways’ course through two counties.

In addition to historic rehab of the mills and some of the buildings downtown, they set aside development sites. Over the years, infill projects were built according to very strict guidelines. Hotels, mixed-income housing, convention facilities, office buildings, rehabbed schools, quite a wonderful baseball stadium, a water park, a canal museum, a major science center for children, and now a golfers hall of fame. Naturally, Augusta thinks it invented golf.

Garden clubs and fraternal organizations and neighborhood groups and libraries and schools put up exhibits along this eight mile stretch – which, by the way, has continuous waterfront access — that explained the old and new river and the old and the new canal. Developers were brought in and the proceeds from the sale of the development parcels were used to pay for part of the scheme. In a very clever sort of decision, they continued to generate waterpower along the canal. Power was sold to the developers. That financed another part of the scheme.

The Army Corps of Engineers, in another partnership, maintain the walls of the canal and dredge it annually. And in the first dredging, the Corps of Engineers found an old canal boat. The local museum stepped in, rehabbed the boat, and every year a local high school group builds another replica boat. Now, while much of the canal is the original, there are some replicated parts. But you can’t tell the difference. That’s heritage development.

This is a place for festivals: July the Fourth, graduation, political rallies, farmers markets, any kind of civic activity. This is where it takes place in Augusta. In the end, tourists came because it was a good place. It was a fun place to visit. So, that’s the architect’s conceptual drawing of their 20-year process.

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